Stories: Your UW support helps youth avoid gangs, drugs, street violence

Your Support Impacts LivesThis story comes courtesy of Boys and Girls Club of Greater Memphis. Names are changed to protect client privacy.

Jason came into this world fighting. He “died” three times shortly after birth, revived each time thanks to the miracles of modern medicine. His parents were unable to care for him and he was raised by his grandmother.

His young life was heavily influenced by the scourge of street gangs and drug peddling. Lacking a father figure in his life, he felt compelled to make his own way to determine who he was, trying to be a man when he had hardly experienced what it was to be a boy. Even though he developed some street smarts, Jason was still very vulnerable. He was robbed in his own neighborhood as a youth.

One place where Jason felt comfortable was on the school football field. There, the rules of the game and leadership from coaches provided some structure to his life. Like many young players, he dreamed of one day becoming a professional football player.

During these years, Jason was introduced to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis, a nonprofit agency funded by your United Way support. There, Jason was taught about the dangers of drugs and he really began to understand why it was important to steer clear of gangs and gang-related activity.

In his senior year of high school, Jason suffered a major injury that required extensive ankle surgery. The injury ended his dreams of playing professionally. For many teenagers with Jason’s background, the crushed dreams from an injury like this might have led to embracing “the easy way” of making money through street gangs or selling drugs. However, thanks in part to the lessons Jason had learned at our partner agency, he understood there was a better way to succeed in life – one that involved finishing high school and attending college.

Today, Jason is pursuing an architecture degree in college and hopes to graduate, find a job and begin a family. Thanks to your support of United Way, a nonprofit agency helped Jason during his troubled childhood years and helped point him in the right direction for a bright future.

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